Diamond Dawgs rev up the offense

 

Tanner Allen of Mississippi State lines a single during Tuesday night’s 15-4 win over Arkansas Little Rock.

Tanner Allen of Mississippi State lines a single during Tuesday night’s 15-4 win over Arkansas Little Rock. Photo by: Chris McDill/Special to The Dispatch

 

Jordan Westburg of Mississippi State connects for a single in the third inning.

Jordan Westburg of Mississippi State connects for a single in the third inning.
Photo by: Chris McDill/Special to The Dispatch

 

Landon Jordan fires the ball to first base for an out in the fourth inning.

Landon Jordan fires the ball to first base for an out in the fourth inning.
Photo by: Chris McDill/Special to The Dispatch

 

Elijah McNamee slides safely into third base during the Dawgs’ eight-run sixth inning.

Elijah McNamee slides safely into third base during the Dawgs’ eight-run sixth inning.
Photo by: Chris McDill/Special to The Dispatch

 

 

Ben Portnoy

 

 

Baseball is a mental game. 

 

Mississippi State senior outfielder Jake Mangum said as much following Tuesday night's 15-4 throttling of Arkansas Little Rock at Dudy Noble Field. 

 

Mangum recalled his freshman year when he was 0-for-9 on the season and had been benched after an opening night start before he earned his first career hit against Alcorn State. 

 

But following the RBI single in that contest, there was a figurative pressure lifted off his shoulders. 

 

"Every at-bat matters," Mangum said. 

 

Sophomore utility player Josh Hatcher is a preeminent example of the psychological side to baseball Mangum alluded to. The Albany, Georgia, native reached base in eight straight games between March 20 and 31, 2018 during his inaugural campaign in the maroon and white. But as the season wore on, Hatcher's numbers fluctuated. 

 

Tuesday night he reminded the MSU staff what a danger he can be in the batter's box. 

 

Hitting in the No. 6 spot as the designated hitter, Hatcher boosted his season batting average to an obscene .524 after finishing 2-for-3 with a walk, one run and two RBI. 

 

"I give him a lot of credit because he had a bad spring training and he wasn't in the mix for the first couple weeks," MSU coach Chris Lemonis said. "And he kept his head up, worked extremely hard. We started to see it in BP and now you're starting to see it between the lines." 

 

It hasn't been the easiest of seasons for Hatcher. He's been mostly relegated to pinch-hit duty and has started just six games. Yet it's his mental fortitude and undying desire to produce that his teammates and coaches watched pay off Tuesday. 

 

"Last year he wouldn't have handled this start well, not playing much," Mangum said. "But this year he comes in here and he's been the best teammate. He's kept his head up and he finally gets his opportunity and he's running with it." 

 

While Little Rock entered the game a meager 6-14, second-ranked MSU needed offense in the early going. 

 

The Trojans quickly tagged freshman pitcher Eric Cerantola for four runs in just 0.2 innings pitched before he was pulled. 

 

Hatcher earned his first RBI on a four-pitch walk with the bases loaded in the bottom of a four-fun first inning to bring home sophomore infielder Jordan Westburg. 

 

In the bottom of the sixth inning, Hatcher again delivered. On a 3-2 pitch, he slapped a single through the left side to score senior outfielder Elijah MacNamee. 

 

"I'm in a good spot right now," Hatcher said. "I've just been waiting to get my turn and when I did I just wanted to give my team the best chance to win and I've been doing that and hopefully we can continue to do that." 

 

As it stands, the Diamond Dawgs are averaging 8.6 runs per game this season and have scored 10 or more eight times this season. If Hatcher maintains his prolific stroke at the plate, MSU may have found another sparkplug for its dynamic offense.

 

 

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